Before Whitney Smith, the study of flags didn’t have a name. So he invented the word vexillology. He was 18 years old.
According to his New York Timesobituary, this scholar not only increased our knowledge of flags; he added to them:
Mr. Smith came up with a prototype, a golden arrowlike triangle with an overlapping red triangle against a green ground. He then asked his mother to sew it and sent it in. It was adopted, with slight modifications. Mr. Smith did not find out for six years, when Guyana gained formal independence.
There have been over two dozen versions of the Stars and Stripes since independence. Which was Mr. Smith’s favorite? The Betsy Ross flag, because “a ring of stars better symbolizes our harmony in diversity.”
In 1968, Bob Kalsu was the Buffalo Bills’ rookie of the year. The next year he was an artillery officer in Vietnam. As this Sports Illustratedprofile recounts:
Word had gotten around the firebase that he had played for the Bills, but he would shrug off any mention of it. “Yeah, I play football,” he would say. What he talked about – incessantly – was his young family back home.
For almost 30 years, Bob Jr. felt partially responsible for his father’s death. As the story went, Bob Kalsu was killed while running out to meet a helicopter that might be bringing the news of his son’s impending birth.
Who’s the most brilliant scientist to have immigrated to America?
Is that your final answer?
Did you consider the inventor of washable crayons?
Colin Snedeker came to the United States as a youth. After inventing a non-staining shoe polish, he went to work for the maker of Crayola Crayons. As his obituary in the Wichita Eagle tells it:
[H]e had run out of ideas as to what to make next… He went into the company’s complaint department, where they had all kinds of mail from people complaining about what was wrong.
Thus inspiration struck.
“He had that kind of mind that could just figure things out,” his sister said. Snedeker is just one of the brilliant minds America has been blessed with from abroad: since 2000, 40% of Americans who won Nobel Prizes in chemistry, medicine, and physics have been immigrants.
Mr. Snedeker may not have been a Nobel Prize winner. He is, however, (yet) another immigrant who has improved our lives.